Kurdish Journals and Magazines
Since the beginning of the 20th century, journals and magazines have been creative vehicles for archiving, fostering, and strengthening the Kurdish language, and have become sources of history, literature, and collective memory for the Kurds. They are sites where the Kurdish language has been institutionalized, where it has been constructed, and where its works have been exhibited. This situation began in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, and it continues into the present.
In the Ottoman era, Istanbul was the primary site for Kurdish language newspapers and journals. On 27 July 1912 the Kurdish Students’ Hêvî Association is established, and on 6 June 1913, the Association released a journal titled Rojî Kurd (Kurdish Sun) into circulation. This journal was shut down by the government after four issues.[i] The Hêvî Association published three issues of another journal called Yekbûn (Unity, 1913) in the same period. On 24 October 1913, soon after Rojî Kurd was shut down, the association began to publish a journal called Hetawî Kurd (Kurdish Sun – Hetaw means sun in the Soranî dialect of Kurdish). Concurrent with Hetawî Kurd’s publication in Istanbul, a Kurdish journal called Bangî Kurd (Call of the Kurd) was being published in Baghdad. Cemaleddîn Baban was in charge of this journal.[ii]
With the start of World War I, many people affiliated with the association and the journal join the war, after which both the association and the journal are closed. After World War I, however, in the spring of 1918, the Komeleya Pêşketina Kurdistanê (Kurdistan Progress Association) begins to publish a journal called Jîn (Life). The journal publishes 25 issues.
Another journal of that era was the journal Kurdistan (1919). The only extant issues of the journal are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, and 1. The journal, published weekly, was centered on politics, society, and literature; it was owned by Mehmed Mihrî and its editor-in-chief was Mehmed Şefîq Arwasî.
Following the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, these already scant efforts came to a complete stop. After the Treaty of Lausanne and after the Kurdish rebellions had been quashed, Kurds in exile published Hawar (Outcry, 1932) in Damascus. Celadet Alî Bedirxan led this effort. This journal is referred to as a historical point of origin and the day of its first publication is celebrated as the Kurdish Language Holiday. It took on a revolutionary role and opened a new phase for the Kurdish language and Kurdish literature. Another thing distinguishing this generation and the Hawar journal was their use of the Latin alphabet. Hawar was the first journal to use this alphabet. In terms of its contents, it was a very colorful journal; this color is apparent in the other journals from the Hawar school, such as Ronahî (Luminescence, 1942), Roja Nû (New Day, 1943), and Stêr (Star, 1943). It included research on Kurdish history, the history of literature, short stories, fables, poetry, plays, translations, classical literature, grammar, folklore, Quranic exegesis, hadith, glossaries, adventure, health, Yezidi prayers, legends, and myths. Hawar also contained significant diversity, religious and otherwise. The Bible was included alongside Quranic exegesis; Yezidi prayers were included alongside the hadith of the Prophet Mohammed. Omar Khayyam and Victor Hugo’s poetry was published alongside the poems of Melayê Cizîrî. The journal’s diversity is rooted in its liberal disposition as well as its staff’s political stance toward a unified Kurdistan. They did not discriminate between groups or religions. It is worth noting that Roja Nû and Stêr were both edited by Kamuran Bedirxan and published in Beirut. These four journals played an important role in terms of their diversity as well as in terms of developing, standardizing, and revitalizing the Kurdish language.
Aside from brothers Celadet Alî Bedirxan and Kamuran Bedirxan, the primary writers in the Hawar school included Qedrî Can, Cegerxwîn, Osman Sebrî, Nûredîn Zaza, Ekrem Cemîl Paşa, Dr. Nafîz, Wehbî, Ahmed Namî, and Rewşen Bedirxan.
The Hawar school had a significant influence upon two journals: The first is Gelawêj (Morning Star, 1941). Gelawêj extended the Hawar tradition to the Soranî dialect in South Kurdistan.
The other journal on which Hawar had a significant impact is Nûdem (New Time), published in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. This journal is widely referred to as a second Hawar.
Nûdem published its first issue in Stockholm in 1992. The journal published forty issues without interruption, until 2001. Nûdem, primarily a journal of literature, constantly published articles on various disciplines of art. Firat Cewerî was the journal’s permanent editor. Under Firat Cewerî’s stewardship, an edition of Nûdem Werger (Nûdem Translation) was also published. This journal was a gateway that brought together Kurdish and world literature. Many new works were first translated into Kurdish for Nûdem Werger. The possibilities offered by the diaspora for the development of the Kurdish language were fleshed out in the pages of this journal.
Apart from these select journals, many other journals have also been published in Sweden that we can see as a deeply valuable collection and archive. Rabûn (Resurrection, 1975), Pale (Ploughman, 1978), Kulîlk (Flower, 1980), Muzîk û Huner (Music and Art, 1980), Berbang (Dawn, 1982), Mamosteyê Kurd (Kurdish Teacher, 1985), Kurdistan Press (1986), Çarçira (Four Lights, 1986), Wate (Meaning, 1987), Berhem (Opus, 1988), Bergeh (Appearance, 1989), Çira (Light, 1995), Dugir (Two Hills, 1995), Helwest (Opinion, 1995), and lastly, Vate (Word, 1997), which was published entirely in the Kirmanjkî (or Zazakî) dialect of Kurdish.[iii]
The journal Tîrêj (Ray of Light), entirely in Kurdish, is first published in 1979 and releases four issues, prior to the 12 September coup in Turkey. Among the journal’s writers include Berken Bereh, Rojen Barnas, Arjen Arî, and Malmîsanij.
Likewise, a Kurdish-Turkish journal enters into publication in 1992, this time in Istanbul. Rewşen (Brightness) continues publishing until 1996, under the banner of Navenda Çanda Mezopotamyayê (Mesopotamia Culture Center). Afterwards, the journal Jiyana Rewşen (Bright Life) publishes 52 issues entirely in Kurdish except for the first few issues. Kawa Nemir was in charge of this journal; M. Zahir Kayan, Cemîl Denlî, Esma Eksen, A. Rahman Çelik, Nurten Demirbaş and Berfîn Zenderlioğlu devote years of labor to the journal. After Jiyana Rewşen comes to an end for institutional and organizational reasons, Rewşen-Name (Bright Letter) publishes three issues in 2002 under the editorship of Kawa Nemir.
On the other hand, Zend is a scholarly journal that continues to be published in the present, under the banner of the Enstîtuya Kurdî ya Stenbolê (Istanbul Kurdish Institute). This journal publishes theoretical articles on topics like linguistics, history, and literature.
Another of the primary journals of that era, Nûbihar (New Spring), also continues to be published in the present. The journal, which began publishing in 1992, has currently published 134 issues. Additionally, several short-lived journals, such as Pelîn (Wormwood), Gulistan (Flower Garden), and Kevan (Bow) were published in Istanbul at the beginning of the 2000s.
These journals, published under predominantly oppressive conditions and in the shadow of war, opened the door for contemporary Kurdish literature to emerge and proliferate. Many of the names who started to write in those journals at those times have become the most well-respected names in Kurdish literature.
At the beginning of the 2000s, in spite of the restrictions on freedom, many Kurdish language publications returned to their homelands. Additionally, this time also saw new journals beginning to be published. W, Çirûsk (Flash) and Rewşen (Brightness), all three literature and culture journals, are published in Diyarbakır. Aside from these journals, Wêje û Rexne (Literature and Critique) and Zarema are also based in Diyarbakır, and particularly publish reviews of literature, analytical writing, and critical and theoretical articles. The journal Nûpelda, which has published ten issues and continues publishing, is based in Van.
In contemporary Izmir as well, there is a tangible movement of Kurdish journals. Heterotopîa, a literary journal, and Felsefevan (Philosopher), a philosophical journal, are both published out of Izmir.
Golik (Calf) continues the tradition of Tewlo, Şûjin (Needle), and Pîne (Patch), short-lived humor and comic magazines from the 1990s. Additionally, journals and fanzines are published in Kurdish at many universities in Turkey and Kurdistan. Vejîn (Resurrection), Laser (Flood), Bar (Burden), Filîto, Jehr (Poison), and Pêngav (Step) are several of the journals published by university students.
Thus, to summarize the stages that Kurdish journal and magazine publishing has undergone since its inception, we might say: the Ottoman-era journals were journals of a comatose language and literature. The Hawar school saved this language and literature from death; Tîrêj, Nûdem, Rewşen, Jiyana Rewşen and Nûbihar reawakened Kurdish language and literature—particularly in the Kurmanji dialect. Since its publication, Vate has carried out the same function in the in the Kirmanjkî (or Zazakî) dialect of Kurdish; currently, it is worth noting, Şewçila, published in Diyarbakır, serves this purpose as well. We might see contemporary journals and magazines that continue to be published and circulated within the homeland as having enabled this language and literature to keep on advancing.
[i] Jîn Kovara Kurdî-Tirkî (Life Kurdish-Turkish journal): 1918-1919, volume: I, Transcription from Arabic alphabet to Latin alphabet: M. Emin Bozarslan, Deng Publishers, Uppsala, 1985, p. 123.
[ii] See Mesûd Serfiraz, “Osmanlı Dönemi Kürt Basın Tarihine Genel Bir Bakış” (A Broad Overview of the History of the Kurdish Press in the Ottoman Era), Kürt Tarihi, V. 8 (August-September 2013), p. 30-37.
[iii] Alakom, Rohat. Kurdên Swêdê, 1965-2005 (The Kurds of Sweden, 1965-2005), Serkland, 2006, Stockholm, s. 198.